By Jackie Clausnitzer, PHR, SHRM-CP HR Services Partner

You must terminate an employee. You have reviewed situation, gathered your documentation, and analyzed the situation for compliance risks. You know what must be done. Now, to deliver the message to the affected employee. Many managers consider terminating an employee the most difficult part of their job. How does one go about it? What do you say to the employee? How will they react?

Now that the decision is made it is time to plan and script the dismissal—from the words that are spoken to the setting in which it is delivered and what you will need to do following the actual event. A termination plan is a very important step and should not be missed. Surveys repeatedly remind us that how a termination is conducted may also influence a former employee’s decision to take legal action against their former employer.

To assist you in the planning phase, does your company have an Employee Termination Policy and/or Procedure in place? If so, review it so that you are familiar with the procedures that it sets forth. If not, set this on the back burner to be suggested at a later time. By partnering with a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), such as Resourcing Edge, HR professionals can assist you in developing an Employee Termination Policy.

Where will the dismissal be conducted?

Keep in mind that employers should engage empathy, respect, and dignity when terminating an employee. Choose a place that offers some privacy. If the employee does not have an office, choose a conference room, somewhere that is comfortable with a door and no windows out to workspaces. If possible, have the discussion in a private area near the front of the building so that the terminated employee can leave without an audience.

Who will attend?

If the employee’s manager is delivering the message, a Human Resources representative should attend to answer basic administrative questions and act as a witness. Contact the person acting as the witness prior to the event to allow time to prepare.

Script out what will be said.

Prepare what you will say. Review the employees file. It is advised to keep the termination short and simple. Brevity is an employer’s best friend in these cases. A best practice is to not detail the reasons, but simply say the employee is being let go immediately and the decision is final and irrevocable. (See more tips below.)

How will the employee exit the premises?

Determine this prior to the actual termination. Will the employee be allowed to pack up their belongings, saying their goodbyes to co-workers? Will a supervisor/manager be gathering their personal belongings for the employee to take with them immediately or will they be invited to pick them up at a later appointed time.

Deliver the news.

Begin by informing the employee that his employment has been terminated and when it will be effective. In most cases, this will be immediately. It is important to be direct and focused. This way there will no miscommunication and the employee knows the decision is final. If you are offering a severance agreement, present the document at that time and explain the time frame the employee has to return it to the company.

Address any administrative type questions, such as benefits, COBRA. Arrange to get back any company property, such as, computers, access badges, credit cards, or other physical company property.

Is there a workplace violence concern?

If there is concern that a terminated employee may pose a threat to the workplace, this should be addressed prior to the employee’s termination when you are developing your termination plan. Be aware of the warning signs that may include previous anger issues, history of access to weapons, or overreaction to changes. Prior to the termination, do a threat assessment. Depending on your assessment of risk, you may need to ask your local police or your security to be present and strategically placed near the termination meeting. The assessment will also help you determine the best location for the termination meeting and who the best employer representatives would be to attend.

Mitigate your risk by working with a PEO, such as Resourcing Edge, to analyze possible security concerns when terminating an employee.

Once the termination is complete there are additional actions to take:

  1. Cut off all access to computer systems and of the employee badge for electronic entry (especially important if the employee does not have it at the time of termination).
  2. Notify management and employees of the termination.
  3. Gather all documentation as this may be needed for an unemployment contest or if the former employee decides to take legal action against your company.

The decision to terminate an employee is never easy. Besides impacting someone’s livelihood there are valid business concerns when a manger must let an employee go. But by taking some time to prepare for a termination, you will be prepared for this difficult task. The HR pros at Resourcing Edge can help you with this issue and many more. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of a partnership with Resourcing Edge, contact us.

Jackie Clausnitzer, HR Services Partner at Resourcing Edge, has more than 25 years of HR experience gained at manufacturing and service companies. She is certified as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and a SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP).

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